Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Ardis Hyde’s Garden 2: Pecos Paradise

March 9th, 2021

Ardis Hyde’s Garden Two

Feature Blog Post

My Garden Paradise in Pecos, New Mexico

The End of My World and a New Home North of Santa Fe

(See also, “Ardis Hyde’s Garden 1: Digging Stumps, Beginner’s Luck and Mom’s Green Thumb.”)

Wheelbarrow, Adobe Wall, Fall, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. (Click to see large.)

In 1992, I left Los Angeles in the midst of the Rodney King Riots. Fires and looting had surrounded my home, devastated my neighborhood in West L.A. and left me thinking it was the end of civilization, as we knew it. Perhaps it was the beginning of the end. Time will tell.

It was certainly the end of my world. My business was falling apart because I was spending more time meditating in the lush gardens outside my apartment in the backyard of an old Crescent Heights mansion. That garden, besides its beauty, was quiet and a peaceful sanctuary away from the gritty, gray and violent city weighing on my psyche every day.

I moved to the desert in Cuyamungue north of Santa Fe between the Pojoaque and Tesuque Indian Reservations. My home was a basement apartment below the house of the Martinez family. The family had lived on that land for over 400 years, like many of the direct descendants from the Spaniards who had originally settled Northern New Mexico. I could walk out my own entrance and look up at the giant old cottonwoods along the arroyo that had stood there for centuries just like the family. In back of the house, relatives of my landlord had cornfields, squash and Green and Red Chile* Peppers, the staples of their culture, partly adopted from the Native Americans. *Note that in New Mexico Chile is the spelling, not Chili.

I took long walks in the desert, wrote a lot in my journal and drove back and forth to work. Living in the country again was like coming home for me. I talked to my parents a lot on the phone and they were very happy I had gotten out of L.A., the rat race and the money oriented life I had been living. I lived in Cuyamungue for over a year, but decided I needed to move into town to be closer to the two waiter jobs I had taken to try to pay off some of my debt and stay afloat after my California business collapsed. Living in town was a great time socially, but I longed for another place in the country with solitude, the night stars overhead and perhaps even with a place I could grow a garden.

A Bottomland Paradise Between Glorieta and Pecos Near the Anasazi

Eventually, by late 1994, I found the ideal place. It was a single wide 1953 mobile home out of town to the east between the small villages of Glorieta and Pecos. It had a large yard and a shop added on in the back. There were a number of friendly neighbors who lived in much newer mobile homes and stick houses nearby. This spot was also right next to wild lands and as I found out later, less than a mile from an ancient Native American burial ground that the locals said was from the days of the Ancestral Puebloans, or Anasazi. This was certainly not far-fetched because there were other well-known Anasazi sites in the area.

Less than 10 miles away, the largest documented sites lie within the Pecos National Historic Park. The park, located between the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Glorieta Mesa, not far from Glorieta Pass, contains the remains of ancient pithouses dating to 800 A.D., a large Ancestral Puebloan ruin circa 1300 A.D., and remnants of a Spanish Franciscan mission church from 1600 A.D. The rich culture of Pecos National Historic Park started with Pre-Anasazi nomad hunter-gatherers and Paleoindians who roamed the Pecos Valley and traded with the Plains Indians going back as far as 11,500 B.C. The first settlements and planting of corn, beans and squash began in 3500 B.C. After the Spanish conquered the pueblos in the 1600s, lost control of the region in the first American Revolution called the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, they forcefully retook the pueblos and increased in power as the pueblos declined throughout the 1700s. The region became part of Mexico in 1821 when the Mexicans won independence from Spain. The legendary Santa Fe Trail opened that same year, passing right through what is today the Pecos National Historic Park. The Santa Fe Trail brought an influx of settlers and eventually led to New Mexico being established as a US Territory during the Mexican-American War in 1846.

Surrounded by Ancient Farmland and Depictions of Kokopelli

Just three miles to the other side of my new place toward Santa Fe, in 1862, the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass, also called the “Gettysburg of the West,” left thousands of bodies and artifacts buried as well. The many historical conflicts made for a colorful backdrop and counterpoint to the agrarian legacy of the place. By the time I arrived on the scene, a peaceful, quiet way of life had won out, but the woods and meadows were full of hidden secrets and spiritual disturbances. From the first night I slept in my new home, I had wild, vivid dreams of people and events completely foreign to my own life. Nonetheless, I always slept very soundly and always felt safe and very happy in my tiny paradise next to Glorieta Creek.

The original builder of the shop in the back had been a metal worker. He left me a number of welded metal surprises hidden either in the grass, behind other junk or under the mobile home floor, which I discovered over time around the place. He had apparently been into Kokopelli, as the owners after him who at first rented and then sold me the place, told me that the various representations of the magic flute player I found had been there when they arrived.

Back when the farming Ancient Puebloan natives began to build structures above ground, about 1,000 years ago, they also developed a layered system of deities that helped protect them and ensure prosperous harvests. The living descendents of the Anasazi, who live along the Rio Grande River between Albuquerque and Taos and in the Hopi Villages in Arizona, to this day make offerings and pay homage to various Kachina spirits. Kokopelli, known as the hunchback flute player, is the most well-known Kachina. Kokopelli is a fertility god, who plays his flute to bring rain, fertilize crops and make sure the women of the tribe bear new babies. Kokopelli is ubiquitous on the contemporary Southwest tourist scene in fine art, kitsch art and in trinkets and souvenirs.

I often listened to Native American flute music. I noticed Kokopelli showed up often in my life, ever since I had moved to New Mexico. My new landlords, if my memory is correct, said the hunchbacked deity influenced them. They conceived three children while living in the mobile home.

Rent-to-Own Paradise, a Visit From the Rain Gods and Soulmate Dreams

They offered me the old mobile home rent-to-own. I started out making payments, but eventually bought it outright. Having a shop again, like my home here in California where I grew up, made me very happy. Some of the best days of my life I spent there in Pecos.

One time when my favorite uncle, Nick King, came to visit, we explored the Anasazi burial ground for the first time. For more about my uncle go to, “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer and 1960’s Activist Nicholas King.” We could see where the graves were, but not long after we arrived on the burial site, what little blue sky we could see turned to clouds and got darker. Within 15 minutes of arriving where we could see the graves, the clouds opened up and deluged us with rain. Soaking wet, but laughing and running back through the woods, we retreated into my kitchen to dry off and sip hot chocolate. Right after we got home, the sun came back out and the air was warm and fresh in my garden.

My girlfriend and I used to stay toasty warm at night in the back bedroom with many blankets and the upright propane heater. However, despite the cozy visits from her, she and I were on the way out when I moved out there. As soon as we broke up, another beautiful lady came into my life. We were having a blast and it was going really well when one of my best platonic friends called me and said she had a dream about us being together. She had awakened feeling she needed to call me and suggest we try romance. I explained that I was dating someone else, but that we could get together and talk. We had both been in love with each other since we met, but had never gotten together because the whole time we had known each other, one or the other of us had been in a relationship with someone else. We used to go out to eat at our mutually favorite Italian Restaurant in Santa Fe and talk for hours. When we got together to discuss it, I was done for. I agreed to get out of the other situation and to give love a shot with her. I told her I already loved her. She said, “Ditto,” referring to the film Ghost that we had watched together and talked about how we were like the characters in the film. We soon after got engaged and came very close to marrying. However, the positive vibe went out of the love affair as soon as I moved away from Pecos. The relationship disintegrated shortly after I sold the place in 1996. I have never married. That was the one time I was engaged.

Here is a prose poem I wrote about her:

The Magic Sky of New Mexico

There was once this exquisite and beautiful young goddess in my life who brightened up everything she touched, who amazed me with her every word. She was like lightning striking the mountaintops, like hard rain on a steel roof, like early morning sunshine on dew fresh grass.

We held hands for a few instants and kissed under a Southwest moon, then suddenly the tides of fate and calamity swept us onward, far away from each other and as distant as the stars. Stars that sometimes look like you can still touch them, they are so close, yet bewildering and out of reach forever.

A Painter of Kivas Who Grew Giant Sunflowers and Fed a Community

Michael Kaczor, my neighbor a few miles to the east, closer to the town center of Pecos, had a gigantic garden. He was a painter. He sketched and painted the pueblos, particularly their meeting houses, kivas, pots and Kokopelli. His extra-large yard full of plants of all kinds, edible and ornamental, generated more garden produce than I had ever seen. Sunflowers 15 feet tall surrounded his yard. He had tons of zucchini, many of them oversize and a few up to two feet long. His strawberry plants bore berries as big as nectarines.

Kaczor himself said that he fed a lot of people out of that garden. He gave food to neighbors, relatives and friends in Pecos and Glorieta, not to mention areas closer to Santa Fe and beyond. He gave away hundreds of pounds of vegetables like peas, corn, lettuce, turnips, yellow squash, zucchini, carrots, potatoes onions and lots of spices like cilantro, oregano, mint, sage, rosemary and dill. Just the community building value alone made me want to plant my own plot, but more than anything, I am drawn to gardening naturally. I feel like all is right in the world when I am doing it.

Besides a natural attraction, I like gardening because I get into better shape through the exercise involved in cultivating soil, building compost, planting, watering, weeding and scavenging and buying plants, pots and other supplies. When I have a garden my digestion is better and my energy levels are higher due to eating more vegetables. With produce getting ripe regularly, I get more creative in planning healthy meals. Just being in the garden, whether working or just sitting, I feel at peace. Needless to say, it was easy for Kaczor to talk me into planting my own plot. Most of these values I discovered or remembered after doing more of my own gardening as an adult, but the sense of them began in childhood. The main difference now was that there were no trees or stumps to remove and the soil needed no manure or any other supplement. My bottomland soil was as fertile as any possible and at least six feet deep, judging by one section of the bank along the creek. The exercise was more uplifting and enjoyable and less like hard work. The setting was ideal and the tasks flowed easily. In the late afternoon in the magic light, being in the garden breathing fresh air and observing the details of insects, plants and the sweet smell of flowers and pungent earth, the world seemed perfect and the work of tilling and cultivating a garden felt almost effortless.

Sunshine, Good Advice, Rich Soil and a Charmed Beginning

Other major factors improved the odds for success as well. We had an abundance of sunshine at that latitude in “The Land of Enchantment,” New Mexico’s official nickname. The Southwest sun provided a long growing season without too much summer heat due to the 6,500’ elevation.

Kaczor taught me a number of other key gardening secrets and tricks that I will go into in posts to come in this series. One major secret that may seem minor at first, Michael gave me when I asked if he knew anyone that had a Rototiller. He said he did not use a Rototiller. He suggested I do like him and in the fall collect a lot of plain brown corrugated cardboard with no lettering or other ink on it. In the winter you then put this cardboard down on the ground, smoothing it out all across the leveled rows in the whole area you plan to plant the following spring. If you want, you can even leave carrots, onions and other root crops under the cardboard. They will keep growing and stay fresh and ready to eat all winter. In the spring you can pull back the cardboard and you will not need to add as many beneficial bugs either. You will have earthworms and organic activity under the cardboard. You may get a few earwigs, sow bugs or potato bugs that you can easily squish or deport, but there will also be lots of earthworms and other beneficial insects.

Speaking of insects, Kaczor also showed me the best natural organic pest control for any garden: just plant Marigolds around the whole circumference of your plot. This will keep most destructive garden pests out most of the time. There are exceptions I learned later and will share in future posts. Meanwhile, when I pulled back the cardboard, sure enough. The ground was soft and fertile. I planted carrots, onions, garlic and radishes in mid-April. During the last week of April, I planted broccoli and spinach. The first week of May I put in beans, summer squash, zucchini, corn, pumpkins, spinach, cucumbers and a few other items I don’t remember. Everything took off fast and dank, as the teenagers say today. The sunflowers I planted in a long row all along my mobile home grew like mad and soon were higher than the roof. It was an epic summer on so many levels. The mountains and deserts called to be hiked and written about, while the garden always grounded my adventures. The greenery and abundance pulled people in to sit and enjoy my little piece of paradise. I was truly blessed.

What I learned that summer about that garden in that centuries old farming place and about gardening in general, due to beginner’s luck, circumstances, location, hard work, good advice, and a little good medicine, has put me in good stead, good homestead that is, for the rest of my life. I planted where the natives had planted, lived where they lived, thrived where they thrived and even I felt at times lightly communicated in my mind with their dead and worshipped their gods. I like to think Kokopelli had an eye on my garden. I certainly had an eye out to learn about him and other such gods of the Southwest who had a tendency to appear and disappear easily and fly like most of the Kachinas.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4

February 12th, 2020

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Four

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3.”

 

Chinle Shales, Chinle Formation, Circle Cliffs, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah, 1982 by Philip Hyde from Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde came out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other well-known landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands can be visited. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including here at the Amazon used booksellers.

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself, while “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3,” continued the text up to the beginning of this post.

 

For the purposes of this book, the larger desert area of the North American continent is divided into five major regions, the general locations and boundaries of which are described below in the order in which they appear in the book.

The Painted Desert Occupies the drier, southerly portions of what geologists refer to as the Plateau Province, the region from the western edge of the Rocky Mountains to the eastern edge of the Great Basin, extending from southern Wyoming to northern Arizona, and including portions of southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico. It is characterized by plateaus and deep canyons made up primarily of sedimentary rocks lying horizontally. The flora and fauna of the Painted Desert are most like those of the Great Basin Desert, and, in fact, some biologists believe the Painted Desert should be considered only a southeastern extension of the Great Basin. However, the Painted Desert cannot be considered hydrologically a part of the Great Basin. One of the major river systems of the West, the Colorado, drains nearly all of the Painted Desert area to the sea. Nor is there much similarity between the landforms of the Painted Desert and those of the Great Basin. With this book’s emphasis on the individual characteristics of each area of desert and the focus on the landscape in each, it is important to make those distinctions.

For the same reasons, I am including as parts of the Painted Desert two areas often left out of it or sometimes included in the Great Basin: Dinosaur National Monument and Grand Canyon National Park, both of which have, for our purposes, closer affinities to the Painted Desert.

The Great Basin Desert is the northernmost and largest of the areas in the North American desert. A large part of it is contiguous with the Great Basin, which, as its name implies, is a region closed hydrologically, that is, with no exterior drainage to the sea. The Great Basin Desert occupies most of Nevada; the western part of Utah to the Wasatch Front; small parts of Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon; and several small border areas of eastern California. Because of its northern location, it has great extremes of climate. The large family of cactuses found in most deserts is nearly absent. It is sometimes called the Sagebrush Desert. The characteristic terrain of the Great Basin Desert consists largely of mountain “islands” surrounded by large valleys without exterior drainage. Many of these basins contain extensive dry-lake bottoms, or playas, and a few hold remnant lakes that are descendants of once vast lakes of the Pleistocene period.

The Mojave Desert adjoins the western side of the Great Basin Desert to the south. It occupies east-central and much of southern California and extends through southern Nevada as far as Utah. The high desert in the northern part of this region gives way in the south to drier, lower, more open country. The Mojave is enclosed on the west and south by mountains, and on the east shades into the Painted Desert along part of the latter’s western boundary. Geologists draw its northern boundary along the Garlock Fault, which runs across most of the Mojave in a general west-to-east direction. For our purposes, however, Edmund Jaeger’s boundary, well north of Death Valley, is more suitable. Like the Great Basin Desert, the Mojave is part of what geologists refer to as the Basin and Range Province. Its terrain is made up of closed basins without exterior drainage.

The Sonoran Desert is perhaps most notable for its variety of xerophilic (adopted to sparse moisture) plants. Flatter, drier, and lower in elevation than its northern desert neighbors, it is named for, and covers much of, the Mexican state of Sonora. It also includes southwestern Arizona, extreme southern California, and nearly all of the Baja California peninsula.

The Chihuahuan Desert is named for the Mexican state of Chihuahua, and nearly three-quarters of it lies in Mexico. It includes a third of Chihuahua, parts of the states of Coahuila, Durango, a bit of Nuevo León, and a small area in Zacatecas. It also extends across the international boundary into westernmost Texas and southern New Mexico. The Chihuahuan Desert is the driest and most open of ther North American deserts, though like the others it includes many mountain ranges. It lies on a great intermountain plateau between Mexico’s two major mountain ranges, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental. Except for the area drained by the Rio Grande and its major tributary, the Río Conchos, the large basins of the Chihuahuan are without drainage.

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 5.”

Do you prefer the desert, mountains, plains, forest or seashore? What is your favorite desert?

Book Review: A Photographer’s Life by Jack Dykinga

July 30th, 2019

Book Review of Jack Dykinga’s “A Photographer’s Life: A Journey From Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer”

How Jack Dykinga Changed

Cover of “A Photographer’s Life” by Jack Dykinga.

From time to time, we hear of a near death experience dramatically changing a life. The NDE may instigate profound insights, strengthen intuition or lead to stardom through development of a previously undiscovered skill. Jack Dykinga, before his hospital death and return, already had the tenacity, good fortune and talent to win a Pulitzer Prize in Photojournalism, leave the newsroom and jump into nature photography, become an admired workshop leader, and co-found two of the most acclaimed organizations for outdoor photographers: the International League of Conservation Photographers and the North American Nature Photography Association.

Dykinga had also previously covered Civil Rights in the tumultuous 1960s, climbed Mt. Rainier in lethal whiteout conditions, photographed wildlife and remote wilderness all over the world and been handed a large check to explore his home Sonoran Desert. In his new autobiography and retrospective with hundreds of his best photographs: A Photographer’s Life: A Journey From Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer, Jack Dykinga described life as “a series of portals where we enter one way and emerge totally transformed.” He had been changed a number of times. He had “done it all” in his field. There was not much else to be gleaned from a near death experience, or was there?

Lying in the St. Joseph’s Hospital transplant surgery unit after transferring from the Mayo Clinic Emergency Room, in the aftermath of a race against time for a lung transplant while going in and out of consciousness, Dykinga reflected on his life before these complications. “I had always been competitive” and “eager to earn and accept accolades that reinforced my ego.” Having lived with fierce independence, he observed that his fragile life was completely dependent on others. He had been leading a photo trip in the Grand Canyon when his lungs gave out. His wife, daughter and other family had put their own needs on hold to look after him. While in the hospital, an army of medical professionals, doctors, assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, X-ray techs, lab techs, physical therapists and cleaning staff all had a hand in making sure he stayed alive.

This sense of gratitude and appreciation extended out to the people who filled all of his days: the muses, guides and mentors who sometimes subtly, sometimes suddenly changed his point of view and made him the man he had become. He realized that his creativity incorporated many people’s influences and that the changes others brought about in his life were often reflected in the images he made.

A Propitious Start in Photojournalism and the Transition to Color Landscape Photography

At 20 Dykinga became the youngest staff photographer at the Chicago Tribune. From then through today, in my opinion he has been one of the best at juxtaposing light and dark. Perhaps Carr Clifton, William Neill, Charles Cramer, Lewis Kemper and only a few other landscape photographers do light and dark as well.

The color landscapes in A Photographer’s Life sing and zip with strong shapes and color. I feel some are high on the list of best landscape photographs ever made. That said, I would recommend that anyone taking the study of photography seriously not miss the book’s text for any reason. It may be one of the best for learning how to learn the art.

Beginning with his high school interest in photography, Dykinga shows us his world through his mentors and advisors. The book is a string of fascinating glimpses into who helped Dykinga accomplish so much. His senior year in high school he won the National Newspaper Snapshot Award, sponsored by Look Magazine, National Geographic and the Chicago Daily News. This encouraged him to deepen his pursuit photography. After his battles with dyslexia in high school, St. Procopius College, a small Benedictine all-male school took an interest in Dykinga and inspired in him “excitement in learning.” Their attentive approach to teaching was “exactly what I needed,” Dykinga wrote. He soon made the Dean’s List and started his newspaper career.

“Contract Buyers League, Chicago, Illinois,” 1970 by Jack Dykinga.

His long background in photojournalism contributed to making Dykinga a good storyteller. He moves fluidly and with brevity through each story of his fascinating life carrying a camera on the streets of Chicago during the upheavals of the 1960s. Reading his text you get a visceral sense of his gut-wrenching failures and his uplifting successes. The pressure, chaos and competition that Dykinga learned to excel in during in the 1960s, led him to take on landscape photography with a stronger will and diligence than most ever apply to the genre.

From covering the race riots in Chicago to earning a Pulitzer Prize by exposing the conditions in mental hospitals, to climbing 14,411 Mt. Rainier in Washington in a whiteout with extra low temperatures and high winds, Dykinga weaves his tale and shares his accompanying master works.

He began at the Chicago Tribune as the youngest staff photographer ever. At the Tribune he quickly learned the pluses and minuses of large and medium format because the paper had a rule that required either 4×5 or 2 ¼ cameras. He spent nights chasing crime and civil rights demonstrations. When the Tribune editors came down on him and heated arguments ensued for using a 35mm camera at night, he moved over to the Chicago Sun times whose editors supported his use of the smaller cameras. Switching papers was a potentially risky move when he was supporting a young wife and looking to start a family. However, it soon proved to be a successful new direction, as his work continued to improve and shine. His 35mm cameras were “unobtrusive, versatile and portable. With their fast lenses and high ISO, I could photograph in available light, which was essential to record the news without the extraneous distraction of a flash.”

Dykinga’s mentor at the Chicago Sun Times, Ralph “Frosty” Frost brought in many new gifted image makers that complimented an already talented staff. Dykinga learned from, collaborated with and competed against these associates and their rivals at the three other newspapers in town. They were young, tenacious and willing to do anything for a story. Sometimes they had to, as in one instance Dykinga describes of how he and a newsroom buddy photographed and then outran a rock and brick throwing mob when the two photo reporters became separated from police protection.

An Earlier Profound Brush With Death and Nature

“Boojum Silhouetted at Sunset, Baja California, Mexico” by Jack Dykinga.

Chuck Scott taught Dykinga a great deal from afar as his competition back at the Tribune, but he in time hired Dykinga to return and join him back at the paper where the young photojournalist had started. By then Dykinga worked on in-depth features including one out of town project that he pitched, to attend the Rainier Mountaineering School in Washington himself, train and climb the mountain himself. Once on the slopes of Rainer, he and his party came face to face with life-threatening weather. Dykinga explains in his text that it was hard to get anyone to understand later, but the experience on the remote cascade peak changed him forever. He had a first-hand encounter with the “profundity and power of nature.”

Dykinga’s interest in wilderness only deepened after his time on Mt. Rainier. He took a leave of absence from photojournalism. One excursion he made during this time took him to Tucson, Arizona, where his wife was meanwhile also looking to go to graduate school. At this point in A Photographer’s Life, Dykinga placed a 12-page section of his black and white newspaper images from the riots, protests and tumult on the streets of Chicago, not to mention a number of photographs from the series exposing the conditions in mental hospitals that earned him the Pulitzer Prize. Some people might see this group of black and white city images as out of place right after the telling of the Mt. Rainier story. However, in my view, it further drives home the point in stark reality that there was something to get away from in Chicago, as well as something to escape to in the West. It makes for good contrast and counterpoint.

“I Want to Be Like Philip Hyde”

Around this time, Dykinga read a Backpacker Article about the lifestyle and approach to photography of Philip Hyde. This sealed his decision to leave Chicago and move to Tucson, although at the time he was still committed to photojournalism. He began to see the masses of images going by as much the same. Meanwhile, “…visual reporting on the environment was non-existent…” Hyde was paving the way and establishing the need at various markets.

I began to feel that the health of the planet was the most important issue of our time. With Adams and Hyde’s works as my guide… I came to see the rate of destruction of wild places as a forecast of our extinction.

At first the plan was to visit Tucson for his leave of absence, but as soon as Dykinga discovered that he could work at the Arizona Daily Star, leaving Chicago permanently became a realistic possibility. He shares with us how his move seemed to fall into place. His hope and expectations were high that he could get into conservation photography and thus live and travel more closely aligned with nature the way Hyde did. Eventually he would meet and become friends and travel with Hyde. Hyde was the “closest thing I had to a mentor in nature photography.”

An Angel Investor, the Sonoran Desert and the Making of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

“Sycamore Leaves in Cave Creek, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona” by Jack Dykinga.

The Arizona Daily Star turned out to be more than an interim step though as Dykinga set about rebuilding the photo department. He gathered an all-star staff, most of the members of which later went on to leadership roles at major publications. In time, however, he saw more and more the limitations and biases inherent in newspapers, which are advertising funded and driven. Around the time he became most disillusioned with journalism, Ginger Harmon, the manager of a remote Nature Conservancy preserve in the mountains east of Tucson, offered him a way out by funding him to travel and photograph the area for the creation of his dream book, The Sonoran Desert, published in 1992 by Abrams, New York.

Seeking flower and cactus images for the book, Dykinga ran across Park Ranger Caroline Wilson, daughter of Bates Wilson who was instrumental in the formation of Arches National Park and the protection of other national park lands in the Southwest US. When Caroline Wilson introduced Jack Dykinga to Philip Hyde, they hit it off right away, having first sampled Mexican food together and later traveling and photographing wilderness in Arizona, Baja and Mainland Mexico together and with other photographers of note including Tom Bell and others.

Phil had a quiet grace and understated humor. He was a great listener. Here was a man who didn’t need to brag or posture. Phil was a legend. His advocacy for the land, combined with a more subtle approach to making images made him special.

Dykinga’s stories capture the essence of Hyde “to a ‘T’.” Both with and without Hyde, Dykinga continued to travel the arid lands of the Southwest working on additional projects. Abrams committed to produce two more books: Stone Canyons of the Colorado Plateau (1996) and Desert: The Mojave and Death Valley (1999). Dykinga has a total of seven books to his credit overall to date. His traveling companion, writer and collaborator from Arizona Highways, Chuck Bowden, wrote the texts in the Edward Abbey tradition. He and Dykinga modeled their work together on these volumes after the famous Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, initiated by Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and David Brower in the 1960s and 1970s, for which Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde became the primary illustrators when the books transitioned to color photography.

We were following a tried and true environmentalist’s tactic, initiated by David Brower, to produce the Sierra Club’s powerful large format series that documented an area while calling for its protection.

They even got Robert Redford to write an introduction to Stone Canyons of the Colorado Plateau. Stone Canyons struck a chord with Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of Interior and former Arizona governor, Harold M. Ickes, Bill Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff, whose father, Harold L. Ickes had originally proposed Escalante National Park before World War II, and with President Clinton himself. Culminating many years of work by other conservationists beginning with the Sierra Club publication of Slickrock (1973) by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde, President Clinton established Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on his last day in office in 1996.

Emotion, Psyche, Art, Photography and Landscape

“Saguaro Cactus, Sonoran Desert National Monument, South Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, Arizona” by Jack Dykinga.

While recounting Dykinga’s life events, A Photographer’s Life lays bare the real world lessons they taught him. For anyone who loves the West, or loves the natural scene anywhere for that matter, A Photographer’s Life packs a lot more than technique or the how-to’s into it’s pages as Dykinga lays open his soul, cuts deep into his own psyche and dissects his own emotional makeup for our benefit. This is rare in a large format photography book, or any other kind of book today.

Dykinga not only organizes the book to give tribute to those who helped him develop, he mentions these influences as they came to mind while image making. Besides his chapters on each significant mentor, he sprinkles in sections on the making of various photographs. At one point in the text when he describes photographing the details of an agave plant and visually compressing the scene “to emphasize the contrasting colors,” he speaks of “walking on a trail blazed by Philip Hyde.” His reflections are on “…moments when passing bits of advice reemerge years later in the work we create.”

When he transitioned to color landscape photography, Dykinga’s work literally and figuratively blossomed. He became known for his images of cactus and other blooming drylands plants. A Photographer’s Life includes Jack Dykinga classics such as “Saguaro Cactus in Bloom,” “Rhododendron in Redwoods,” “Boojum Silhouetted at Sunset,” “Sandhill Cranes at Dawn, Bosque del Apache,” but it also treats us to more subtle or unusual images that could not be made by anyone else.

Dykinga shows us something different from what we typically see with two images of Saguaro in the snow. His open and stark compositions with a lot of extra space around items of interest give us the emotional equivalents of the desert. Often, as in his Silhouettes of Saguaro and of Boojum in Baja, he distills the image down to its simplest elements, or photographs simple subjects to start out with. While Dykinga’s small cactus details, Baja rock outcroppings and the silhouettes show the Hyde influence, they are graphically as good or better and more eye catching. Dykinga certainly did his own version of subtle well too.

“Monument Valley, Totem, Yei Bi Chey with Tumbleweed’s Wind Pattern Foreground” by Jack Dykinga.

Perhaps one of the most unusual images of Monument Valley ever made, but simultaneously telling of the place, is Dykinga’s winter landscape near-far with the tumbleweed isolated and alone in the foreground and mist-enshrouded monuments in the distance. Now and then Dykinga presents us with a documentary image of an area, no less beautiful, but certainly rooted in place. In contrast to this and the cactus, sand and desert rock, some of Dykinga’s best work happens when he experiments with water—using various exposures and focal lengths to go toward expressionism and impressionism. All in all, A Photographer’s Life, is a review of Dykinga’s mastery and range. Budding landscape artists take heed.

Currently there is a major exhibition of Jack Dykinga’s Grand Canyon prints from June 18 to September 14, 2019 at the Etherton Gallery in Tucson, Arizona. If you are near Arizona or not, it is worth making the trip to attend: Jack Dykinga – Grand Canyon National Park, 1919 – 2019.

Philip Hyde’s Planning, Travel Research and Open File Bins 1

May 30th, 2018

Philip Hyde’s Future Trip Planning Files and Other File Bins Full of Fascinating Papers

Philip Hyde’s Wishing Wall, Pre-Internet Bookmark System, In-Depth Studies and Travel Planning

Portrait of Philip Hyde by Anne Jeffery, circa 1978.

My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, planned extensively before going into the field. To this day in his studio, stands a wall of open file bins, each bin full of maps, letters, notes, brochures and other materials about locations all over North America, Hawaii, and some in Europe. While out photographing, he also discovered a long list of photogenic wilderness spots. In addition, he developed a long list of “wish list” places that he never visited. Later blog posts will elaborate on how he studied maps and read travel guides and history books on the places he intended to photograph. When in the field he navigated often by intuition, in part empowered by knowing what to look for before he arrived, but remaining alert to new surprises. He was spontaneous, but most interested in making a study in depth, to fully capture the essence of a place.

He prepared extensively for his travels and his maps reflected this. He had maps of all types, from basic highway maps, to maps that showed the types of vegetation, soil maps, trail maps, archeological maps that outlined old ruins from all ages. Still in his studio today is a large double door cabinet full of topographic maps. He usually ordered topographic maps of any place where he would spend more than a few weeks.

Maps and Legends

He studied the maps and the land forms they showed which facilitated his in-depth study of the local geology. Geology interested him greatly and he felt it key to good landscape photography. Understanding the types of rock and formations you will encounter, helps you know what patterns to seek out and where in a region to look for interesting land forms. Dad often revisited locations he had photographed before. He made notes in the field for possible future visits, when he discovered an area of interest he had not allowed plenty of time to explore. However, he usually planned his trips with time to spare so that he could deviate from his itinerary and heed the beckoning of a new place inviting him to explore further.

All of this required a great deal of time and energy compiling and distilling to an itinerary on a notebook page or two, with notes tied to a map that he drew routes on with various colors of pens. He was elated when highlighter pens came out in many colors. He could then see much better where he was going on the maps than in the days when he used various colors of solid markers.

In his studio, to this day, a whole wall of open file bins hold much of the contents as they were when he lost his eyesight in 1999-2000. They contain maps and planning information he had been gathering for various trips he intended to make some day, and some for trips he did make, though in most cases these were moved to other files. The wall of file bins made out of ¾ “ plywood that he cut and built by hand, just as the rest of the studio, has its top just below a window with a sill just over six feet off the floor. The open file bins run eight feet along the wall and start three feet off the floor, just above cabinets with swinging doors for storing office supplies. Each bin is 15 inches wide and there are six rows of bins. The shelves cut out of 3/8” particle board can be moved and rearranged to create ½” bins, 1” bins, 2” bins, 3” bins or even larger. Most of them are set at 1 1/2”. The bins are all labeled. The farthest left column of bins contains miscellaneous often used files that are not trip planning files. These start at the top left corner and are named.

Left Column of File Bins–Miscellaneous Files:

  • To San Francisco Next Trip
  • Professional Color Lab
  • Miscellaneous Processing Price Lists
  • Robert Reiter Cibachrome
  • Note Card Printing – Serbin – Singer
  • Copyright Data
  • ASMP Guides
  • PH Price Lists
  • Camera Repair
  • Chromeworks Lab
  • A&I Processing
  • Light Impressions
  • Calumet Chicago
  • Supplies – Bill Olson
  • Camera Catalogs
  • Miscellaneous Equipment

Second Column of File Bins–Planning Maps, Info, Etc.:

  • Environment/Conservation
  • Planning – Schedules by Year
  • Alaska – British Columbia – Alberta
  • Idaho – Montana – North and South Dakota
  • California – Nevada
  • Oregon – Washington
  • Utah – Arizona
  • Colorado Region – New Mexico
  • Texas Region – Misc. Others
  • Tharco Containers
  • Chemical Suppliers

Third (Center) Column of File Bins–Planning Future Trips–Major Interests–Primary Correspondence:

  • Current Workshops, General Correspondence, Other Workshops
  • Mexico Maps, Planning, Schmidt’s Papers on Chihuahua, Sierra Madre
  • Sierra Project
  • Coast Range Project
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Four Corners – Canyonlands – Arches – Grand Canyon
  • Baja Trips
  • East Coast Fall Trip
  • Hawaii Project
  • Correspondence, etc, Work Pending
  • Correspondence for Work Sent Out – Working: Prints, Transparencies Out
  • Forms for office use/FAX

The contents of the fourth and fifth columns of file bins were all moved into vertical cabinet files elsewhere in Dad’s studio.

Notes to Self, Letters, Cards and Other Correspondence Before and After Travels

As you can imagine, these various file bins are rich with interesting materials to thumb through…

For example: crumpled in the back of the Mexico File Bin, I pulled out a letter with a card paper-clipped to it. I straightened the letter written in Dad’s longhand handwriting. The card paper-clipped to the letter says in Dad’s writing at the top, “Met @ Guelaguetza, Oaxaca.” Guelaguetza is not a place. It is the 3,000 year-old Zapotec Food of the Gods Festival held in early October in the middle of the rainy season in Oaxaca. In the festival, the indigenous people offer corn, water, tomatoes, chiles, squash and beans to the gods and celebrate with music and dance.

The rest of the card reads like this:

Mexican Government Tourism Office
Secretaria De Tourismo De Mexico
Rolando A. Garcia
Marketing Representative
Texas-Louisiana-Oaklahoma
2707 North Loop West, Suite 450
Houston, Texas   77008
[Phone Numbers]

The letter is a carbon copy in Dad’s handwriting addressed to Rolando A. Garcia and dated Feb. 6, 1990:

Dear Rolando, Polly and Carlos,
Just back from three wonderful weeks in Mexico. Here is a copy of my latest book “Drylands.” Maybe you will note that some of our favorite places are in Mexico! [See Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert Sections.]
We loved meeting you and hope our paths cross again as happily as the first time.
Viva Mexico!
Ardis and Philip Hyde

I will share much more great material, or “content” as they call it now, from Dad’s file bins in future posts…

(Continued in the blog post, “Philip Hyde’s Planning, Travel Research and Open File Bins 2.”)

Enduring Images: Interview of Jack Dykinga for Outdoor Photographer Magazine

September 15th, 2016

Enduring Images: An Interview with Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist, Celebrated Nature Photographer and 2017 NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Jack Dykinga by David Leland Hyde

Including Previously Unpublished Interview Sections and Materials

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue - Photography with a Purpose

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September 2016 Special Issue – Photography with a Purpose. (Click Image to see larger.)

Jack Dykinga won the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism while documenting the turmoil of 1960s Chicago. In 1970 he read a Backpacker magazine interview of my father, conservation photographer Philip Hyde. The article by environmental photographer Gary Braasch inspired Dykinga to move West and begin photographing landscapes. He eventually met and became friends with Dad, who mentored him in the ways of conservation photography. They even photographed together on a number of trips, some with a few other photography friends around the Southwest U.S., as well as on mainland Mexico and Baja California.

Jack Dykinga over the years also became a pillar of Western nature photography, working with the acclaimed International League of Conservation Photographers, National Geographic, Arizona Highways and other renowned organizations. The North American Nature Photography Association plans to honor Dykinga with a Lifetime Achievement award this year, much as they did Philip Hyde and David Brower back in 1996.

My interview with Mr. Dykinga touched on how he made the transition from a Midwest urban setting to photographing the wide-open wilderness spaces of the West. It also revealed the sensibilities he discovered were necessary to photograph nature and wildlife for conservation purposes. Our discussion ranged from his experience at various well-known magazines to the refinement of his approach over the years with input from Dad. Dykinga gave insights into a number of conservation projects and the making of a number of his successful books for various causes, including the upcoming new release of A Photographer’s Life: A Journey from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer, in which Dykinga wrote an entire chapter about Dad.

My interview ran over 26,000 words, but I kept only 2,800 for the Outdoor Photographer piece. Some of the remaining 23,200 words will go into my book, but a few sections I will share with readers here. In one section I asked Jack Dykinga about Eliot Porter and Robert Glenn Ketchum. I specifically cut this portion from the Outdoor Photographer version because I did not feel the magazine article was the place to grind the axe about how Eliot Porter has received credit for a number of Dad’s and other’s accomplishments. At the right time and place, in the appropriate venue, a more detailed version of this discussion will be pertinent. For now, Landscape Photography Blogger is more appropriate than Outdoor Photographer for starting to bring some of it to light. The Outdoor Photographer audience is interested in learning from all of these greats of nature photography, not necessarily hearing why one or another have been over or under-recognized. In my opinion Dykinga’s response, while favoring Dad, was well-considered, balanced and tactful. Let’s see what you think when you read it below… In another section, Dykinga shared his experiences and impressions while working with National Geographic and while obtaining more personal, land and place oriented photographs.

David Leland Hyde: John Rohrbach in Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter, made the exaggerated claims that Eliot Porter invented color nature photography and “almost single handedly saved the Grand Canyon.” Rohrbach also wrote that Robert Glenn Ketchum was the primary photographer carrying on Eliot Porter’s legacy. It was common knowledge among those who were there and widely known thereafter that Dad led the charge spiritually and produced the most photographs for the Grand Canyon campaign. Dad’s photographs illustrated three large format Sierra Club Books and were the cornerstone of Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, the one book specifically produced to prevent two dams above and below the National Park in the Grand Canyon. Eliot Porter’s Glen Canyon book enjoyed wide readership during this time mainly because the campaign to prevent the Grand Canyon dams took on global proportions. The book Time and the River Flowing landed on the desk of every member of Congress and other Washington leaders, as well as quickly fulfilling significant international demand and distribution. As Time and the River Flowing went out all over the world, it effectively advanced the momentum of the global letter writing campaign that ultimately swayed American politicians and stopped the dams. Not all of Philip Hyde’s books in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series sold as well as Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, but Island In Time: Pt. Reyes Peninsula came out the same year. Several other photographers including Litton, Brower, Adams and others were nearly as prominent as Hyde and Porter in bringing color to landscape photography. As far as any photographer taking over Eliot Porter’s legacy, late in Porter’s life when he was ill before a Truckee Meadows Workshop, the organizers called in Hyde to take over Porter’s teaching position, not Robert Glenn Ketchum or anyone else.

Jack Dykinga: Eliot Porter was a great photographer. I will say that right off the bat. Right almost in the second line of his autobiography, without even taking a breath, it says he was a medical doctor who gave that up to be a photographer. Your dad was a self-made person who wanted to be a photographer. He wasn’t a doctor that wanted to be a photographer. He didn’t have either the baggage or the promotional ability that Porter did. A guy like Robert Glenn Ketchum had Ketchum, Idaho named after his family. He lives in Bel Air and Hollywood and he’s done a lot of good conservation work, but the hardship that your father had to go through, made him stronger. Your dad was the kind of person who had to really work for everything he got. I don’t think he had time to blow his own horn. He was trying to make a living. If I had it to do over again, I sure wish I had a lot more money. I wouldn’t have to worry about the next check. But, I think that lack of money also gives you an edge, I don’t mean a winning edge, I mean there’s a certain edge to your life where you’re really having to push pretty hard to get things done and it helps you. Porter’s work had a totally different look, whereas your father’s strength was that he gave you the monumental look of the American West. Your father did a lot more trail hiking than Eliot did and really showed us the land without showing himself.

Hyde: In the early 1960s, the whole direction of the large format books shifted. At first there was the big black and white sensation, This Is The American Earth by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall, but then suddenly everybody was really excited about color.

Dykinga: Your father was more of a documenter of wild places. He would look at things as more of a narrative and a project. That’s more akin to what I do. A lot of my friends that I go camping with are what I call single image photographers. They go out and want to get the most powerful shot that day, where I’m more likely to be wrapped up in a concept. That’s because I’m the journalist. You get publishable shots every single day. They may not be the art you want to hang on your wall, but you may want to put them in a book to tell somebody a story. If you try to submit only those that whisper, you’ll never get published, but you can hang them on the wall and live with them and love them.

Hyde: With National Geographic are you doing more or less what Joel Sartore does?

Dykinga: I am a contract photographer. He is a contract photographer on their first list. I used to be on their first list. I have a deep connection with the magazine, but their overall view of landscape is erratic. We have different opinions.

Hyde: Their idea of landscape is always putting a person in the frame.

Dykinga: There you go. You hit it perfectly. The classic example would be the last issue on Yellowstone National Park with people, butchering animals, traps and cowboys. There’s not one sense of place in the whole article. Here we are in this dramatic, incredible landscape that just gets really short shrift with the tact they have taken. The current editor is a journalist. She was the editor of Time Magazine.

Hyde: Would you say that National Geographic goes after the culture more than the place or the wilderness?

Dykinga: You could say that. That’s sort of subjective. I was there when Chris Johns was editor and he loved my approach to landscapes. That went away when he went away. It changes all the time. I still work for them occasionally. A full feature is a 100 day contract and it’s pretty good money, except when you have things blow up, it maybe not as good as you thought.

Hyde: You were in Stephen Trimble’s book, Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography. I don’t know that he necessarily found all of the “Who’s who” of Grand Canyon photography, but he included many.

Dykinga: I spend less and less time in cliché locations. They may be visual touchstones for most people, but they’re not interesting to me because even more than the place the solitude is important to me.

Hyde: Like Ansel talked about with the experience?

Dykinga: Yes, a deeper connection. You can’t do that if you’re on a crowded boardwalk in Yellowstone with about 30 Chinese guys with selfie sticks like I just experienced. People now are interested in showing “me there,” more than “there.” I think there’s a profound shift with people being more anthropocentric.

Hyde: We have less and less connection to nature as decades go by and more and more words and noise surrounding ourselves when we do get out there.

Dykinga: I see it all the time where people really go on and on explaining their work. Your father’s message and his voice came through the image. If you go on and on about divinity and God and everything else, that’s maybe what you’re reading into it. A lot of us are just very happy when people see the place and make their own decisions based on their own divinity or lack thereof. That’s as good as you can go. It’s more of a Buddhist approach.

To read the best published portions of the above interview pick up the Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue still on newsstands now for a few more weeks, or available online in October.

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3

August 26th, 2014

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Three

Continued from the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2.”

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capital Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in "Drylands: The Deserts of North America" by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" with Edward Abbey.

Capitol Reef from Cohab Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, 1978, by Philip Hyde. Nationally exhibited and first published in “Drylands: The Deserts of North America” by Philip Hyde. A stronger, more majestic photograph than a similar earlier image published in “Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah” with Edward Abbey.

Drylands: The Deserts of North America with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, developed out of nearly 60 years of exploring and defending western North American wilderness, with special emphasis on the five deserts of the continent. Yolla Bolly Press, which also packaged Mountain Light by Galen Rowell and other foundational landscape photography titles, recently donated its archive to Stanford University, where Drylands and its production can be viewed. Drylands is now out of print, but can be found at various online booksellers including Amazon under “Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde,” or “Drylands Philip Hyde.”

The previous blog article in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2,” tells the story of the making of the book. The first blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1,” contained the beginning of the first chapter of the text of Drylands itself. We continue now where that blog post left off…

 

Passing through vast expanses of land that appear to be nearly bereft of any living thing, I wonder at the sight of a small plant braving the harsh environment. Its difficult circumstances do not evoke sympathy; I wonder that the plant grows in spite of difficulties, that it conserves what little moisture it gets and responds to the slightest moisture by blooming exuberantly.

Still another delight feeds the photographer within: the light. Desert light is crystalline and brilliant, making deep shadows and sparkling highlights. This is at least partly a result of the scarcity of moisture in the air—and, until recently, the scarcity of humans and their activities. When there were fewer people, the light everywhere must have had the clear quality that is still to be seen in some of the more remote quarters of the North American deserts.

As a mountain lover, I especially appreciate a characteristic that our deserts share with most of the country from the Rockies west: the deserts of North America are uncommonly mountainous. The two snowiest mountain chains in the country, the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades border the northernmost deserts on the windward sides. Scattered throughout all of the deserts are a large number of lesser mountain ranges that cast their own rain shadows on the adjacent areas. Some of these lesser ranges are high enough and wet enough to support forests on their upper slopes. Rising high above the parched plains and valleys below, they may be snow capped in winter, like the higher ones to the west. The White Mountains, Toiyabe, Snake, Ruby, and other ranges in Nevada, along with the high plateaus of Utah and Arizona and the Sierra Madre in Mexico, create their own microclimates: islands of plenty surrounded by desert.

Nowhere in the world is there as much diversity of desert weather as there is in western North America. In western Oregon, California, and Nevada precipitation occurs mostly in winter, in summer only rarely. In the eastern and southern parts of the Mexican deserts, summer is the rainy season. Where rainfall records are available for desert locations, they show radical irregularity. Downpours may occur at random intervals and locations, sometimes exceeding the year’s average in a few minutes or hours. In some places droughts can last several years, with no rainfall at all. The North American deserts are second to none for intensity of summer heat, but the dryness of the air makes the heat more bearable. Death Valley can be as hot on a summer day as any place on earth, while at higher elevations a sweater may be necessary when the sun sets and the air cools.

The great diversity of the vast desert landscape of North America suggests natural divisions that coincide with most scientific classifications. But the actual boundaries of these divisions are not so easy to draw within those of the larger desert region. In most cases, one desert shades into another, so boundaries must be somewhat arbitrary and indefinite, as are all attempts by humans to circumscribe nature. As I write this I think of Sir Francis Bacon saying: “Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with may make you lose your way.”

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 4.”

Which is your favorite desert?

Philip Hyde Explored Wilderness In Photographs

February 18th, 2014

Philip Hyde Speaks Out About Respecting And Defending The Five Deserts of North America

By Jane Braxton Little

Note: This article originally titled “Philip Hyde: Exploring World In Photos” by Jane Braxton Little appeared in the Feather River Bulletin on October 7, 1987 just before the release of Drylands: The Deserts of North America. Jane Braxton Little now writes for the Sacramento Bee and magazines such as Audubon, American Forests, Scientific American, Nature Conservancy, Sierra, Native Peoples and many others. She is a full-time freelance writer who travels the world on environmental stories. Drylands is out of print but readily available through used booksellers. See Drylands: The Deserts of North America on Amazon.

Anvil Cloud Over Badlands, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 1975 Philip Hyde. A Drylands image. Philip Hyde was aided in image selection for Drylands by Jim and Carolyn Robertson of Yolla Bolly Press, who packaged the book for publishing by Harcort, Brace, Jovanovich. Yolla Bolly also packaged Galen Rowell's famous book Mountain Light. The Yolla Bolly archive with Drylands and Mountain Light now resides at Stanford University.

Anvil Cloud Over Badlands, Death Valley National Park, Mojave Desert, California, copyright 1975 Philip Hyde. A Drylands image. Philip Hyde was aided in image selection for Drylands by Jim and Carolyn Robertson of Yolla Bolly Press, who packaged the book for publishing by Harcort, Brace, Jovanovich. Yolla Bolly also packaged Galen Rowell’s famous book Mountain Light. The Yolla Bolly archive with Drylands, Mountain Light and others now resides at Stanford University.

Traveling The West

Philip Hyde glanced around his studio lined with full-color landscape photographs in various stages of framing and confessed a yen to travel.

“I haven’t taken any kind of trip for 18 months and I’m beginning to feel it,” Hyde said. “My feet are itchy.” The Mojave, Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Great Basin and Painted Deserts are what have kept Philip Hyde, age 66, at his studio in his home in the Northern Sierra. His new book, Drylands: The Deserts of North America, will be published this month.

Sculpted sand dunes, multicolored lava flows and the surreal cracks of a sun-parched mud patch are among Philip Hyde’s 95 photographs that convey, often with stark simplicity, the complex beauty of North America’s five deserts. Hyde also wrote the text of the new large format coffee table book.

Hidden Complexity In Deserts

“To the casual eye, deserts look like simple places: scattered sage brush, the occasional lizard, bare rock…” Hyde wrote in his introduction. “Yet deserts are not really simple places and the bareness can be deceptive.”

With the publication of Drylands nearly behind him, Hyde has been kept in his studio readying the photographs reproduced in the book for shows at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, opening October 23, and at Lightworks in Sacramento, scheduled to open December 2.

Drylands is the most recent of the many books and calendars that have helped to establish Hyde as one of America’s most respected and experienced landscape photographers. His work has been exhibited nationwide and is represented in major photography collections. While Hyde’s work reflects the diversity of vegetation and topography from Alaskan tundra to the mountains of central Mexico, it projects a singular attitude towards his subject.

Reverence And Discovery In Nature Photography

“I photograph nature with great respect for it,” Hyde said. “I want people to appreciate wilderness and I would like to think that I have had a hand in making them more conscious of nature.” A perfectionist, who chooses his words with precision, Hyde refolds his lunch napkin into its brass ring and labels his studio typewriter with the date he installed a new ribbon. His photographs are the products of a fine eye distinguished by an appreciation for the subtly unusual.

“Photography for me is a discovery process,” Hyde said. “I don’t go to a place and wait. In a place that’s full of pictures, it doesn’t make sense to wait for them to happen. There are too many other pictures waiting to be taken.”

Philip Hyde and his wife Ardis spend an average of three months a year on photographic trips. They have climbed the mountains of Baja California, Mexico, rafted through the Grand Canyon, Rio Grand and many other river canyons, and camped on a glaciated beach in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Before each trip, Hyde studies the geology and geography of the area and researches it pictorially. Hyde explained, “Basically I’m dealing with the land. I find out what I can about it in advance. When I get there I explore it—and see what happens.”

Environmental Activism And Politics

His travel far from the conventional tourist beats is in step with his environmental politics. An outspoken conservationist, he served as a photographer for the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that originally popularized the large format coffee table book. Hyde produced numerous books for the San Francisco based Sierra Club and worked with many other environmental organizations. He was a major contributor to the first Sierra Club desk calendar and his work continues to appear regularly in new editions, as well as numerous other publications. His pictorial record of Glen Canyon before it was flooded by Lake Powell is just one example of his use of photographs to make political statements.

“My photographs are my voice,” Hyde asserted. “They haven’t hurt people as much as I would have if I got mad and hit them over the head.” He is generally critical of the direction of national politics and specifically critical of the Reagan administration and James Watt, Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior.

“The whole idea of conserving things is more liberal than conservative,” Hyde said. “Conservatism, as practiced in this country is exploitation. It’s big business privilege. It doesn’t jibe with conservation or true conservatism.” Hyde has devoted a lifetime to photography out of a belief in communicating conservation ideals.

Art As Communication More Than Expression

“My philosophy of photography is communication,” He explained. “That rules out getting too far out and too personal—where the communication is so obscure you go to a show and the most banal photograph has three paragraphs of text to explain it. That’s not the true medium of photography. If it needs to be explained, it’s something else.” He also does not advocate art that is different merely for the sake of being different.

“There’s so much talk about creativity,” Hyde said. “Philosophically, I don’t know about creation. It seems to me there is no real need to make nature into something else. If you make a tree into something other than a tree, that’s not photography.”

“The picture doesn’t have to communicate just what the photographer is thinking,” said Hyde. “Let people play around with it. That’s part of the fun.” The best of Hyde’s photographs leave space for the viewer to complete the scene.

Self Made, Self-Reliant And Simple

Hyde does almost all of his own photographic printing in his studio, keeps all of his own clerical records and markets the bulk of his work by himself. Despite the challenges of running a one-man business, he prefers the simplicity of being self-contained to the complexities of being an employer.

“The hardest thing I do is to make things simple,” he said. Hyde recently simplified his printing process by replacing color dye transfer printing with Cibachrome, a color printing process manufactured in Belgium and marketed by an English company. Cibachrome has complexities in the chemical and manufacturing process, not in the print making methods.

When he is at home in the Sierra, Hyde maintains a disciplined schedule, working regular hours in his studio. The house where he and Ardis have lived since 1959 is decorated with clean, understated elegance: hand-made earthenware, Navajo rugs, books, rugs, wall hangings and brass trays from when the Hydes lived in Morocco for a year.  Their food is often picked from Ardis’ garden just up hill from Indian Creek, complimented by her homemade whole wheat bread.

His photographs bear a quest for simplicity, conveying a strong sense of the individuality of a single stone or the moment of a sunset over the Grand Canyon. They are images that may accurately reflect a point in time selectively plucked from a world in constant flux.

“Every day different things are happening. Every day the sun is in a different position… Photography is an exploration more than anything else.”

Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 2

January 15th, 2013

Excerpts From The Text And Photographs of Drylands: The Deserts of North America by Philip Hyde, Part Two

Continued from where the Drylands book text began in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 1.”

Where Drylands Began

 

Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho, copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde.

Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho, copyright 1983 by Philip Hyde. From the book Drylands: The Deserts of North America.

(View the photograph large: “Lava, Flowers, Craters Of The Moon National Monument, Idaho.”)

Yolla Bolly Press, the same book packager and agent who put together Galen Rowell’s famous book, Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape, collaborated with my father, pioneer color landscape photographer Philip Hyde, to select images and plan the concept for what became one of Dad’s most important books: Drylands: The Deserts of North America. Drylands, with photographs and text by Philip Hyde, introduction and notes on plants and animals of the North American deserts by renowned award-winning naturalist David Rains Wallace and drawings of desert plants and animals by Vincent Lopez was the culmination of Dad’s “wandering in the desert” as he put it, quoting the New Testament. Recently, Yolla Bolly Press donated its archive to Stanford University, which will be the home of Drylands in perpetuity.

In the next blog post in this series, “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America 3,” we will get back into Dad’s text, but first, I will start at the beginning and share some important insider background to round out the story. Also, I will give you a preview of what is to come by presenting the dust cover jacket flap blurbs below.

After he had been the primary illustrator of dozens of books, Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich blew Dad’s mind by sending him his only advance ever on a book: a check for $50,000, which is large for a photography book. HBJ then released Drylands: The Deserts of North America in 1987. Reviewers from several major newspapers reviewed Drylands, but the only major review reproduced online today is in the Los Angeles Times. After Drylands received the following review from Library Journal, libraries across the nation purchased the large format book for their collections.

In this beautiful exposition of the five deserts of North America, Hyde’s photographs capture the desolate and sometimes haunting beauty of the desert landscape. Hyde has been exploring the desert for over 30 years and his love for the land is obvious. Unfortunately, his essays here are rather slight compared with the photographs. There is, however, an enlightening introduction by David Rains Wallace about evolutionary mysteries the desert presents. Libraries that can afford this book will not be disappointed by its quality.

By Randy Dykhuis, Grand Rapids Public Library, Michigan.

Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

When I looked up Drylands on WorldCat, I was surprised to find that dozens of university, state and municipal libraries in most states have a copy of the book, including Harvard, Yale, Cornell and even Cambridge in the UK. Many libraries in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand have copies of Dad’s classic color film desert tribute as well.

The Dust Jacket Flaps

Distinguished photographer Philip Hyde and award-winning writer David Rains Wallace pool their talents here, in this dazzling book depicting in words, photographs, and drawings the many faces of the deserts of North America. What emerges is an unforgettable portrait of harsh yet lovely lands with diverse animals and plants and landforms.

Philip Hyde has been photographing the deserts of the North American West since 1951. Drylands reveals 95 full-color brilliant image of the five major deserts:

PAINTED DESERT with soaring cliffs, deep canyons—including the Grand Canyon—and varicolored hills

GREAT BASIN DESERT with climatic extremes and long, parallel mountain chains and mountain “islands” surrounded by dry flatland

MOJAVE DESERT with many-armed Joshua trees and the vast, empty expanse of Death Valley

SONORAN DESERT with high mountains and oversized trees and cactuses—including the saguaro, which grows to spectacular heights

CHIHUAHUAN DESERT with two great rivers, the Rio Grande and the Rio Conchos, yet with the driest country.

Hyde’s superb photographs are complemented by luminous descriptions of geographical and geological features and by journal vignettes of his encounters with the drylands.

In his introductory essay, David Raines Wallace looks at the deserts in time: the evolutionary past, the evolutionary future, and today. In his notes, Wallace provides a valuable guide to the characteristic features and habitats of desert plants (ocotillo, paloverde, desert evening primrose) and animals (the sidewinder, mountain lion, kangaroo rat), illustrated by Vincent Perez’s striking line drawings. The book also includes six relief maps.

Drylands is designed and produced in the grand tradition of fine art books. It gives continuing pleasure to those who delight in the splendors of the desert.

PHILIP HYDE’S landscape photographs have been exhibited nationwide. He is represented in several major photograph collections, and his work has appeared in books and magazines. He has written and collaborated on many books on the American West.

DAVID RAINS WALLACE has been writing about nature and conservation for almost ten years. He is the author of six books including The Klamath Knot, for which he was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for natural history writing in 1984.

Continued in the blog post, “Drylands: The Deserts of North America 3.”

What are your experiences in the desert? What does the desert mean to you?

Was Edward Abbey A Mystic?

September 12th, 2011

Jack Loeffler And Edward Abbey Discuss Mysticism While Camped At The Strait Of Hell On The West Coast Of Sonora, Mexico

White Herons, Playa, Baja California, Mexico, copyright 1981 by Philip Hyde.

In his biography of Edward Abbey, Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey, Jack Loeffler described traveling, friendship and working with Edward Abbey on various environmental campaigns. In one chapter Jack Loeffler told a story about exploring and car camping with the “Thoreau of the West” and his wife Clarke Cartwright Abbey on the west coast of Mainland Old Mexico. “On a dirt road that extended from El Desemboque to Kino Bay,” Jack Loeffler and Edward Abbey made camp.

They dubbed their camp “Osprey Bay” because they could see “no fewer than five inhabited osprey nests…” and during the day they could see osprey aloft nearly all the time. To get to the camp they had traveled several hundred miles from the U. S. border. Their camp was across Estrecho Infiernillo, or the Strait of Hell, from Baja California with Tiburon Island and Shark Island a few miles out in the Sea of Cortez or Gulf of California. Nineteenth century explorers called the narrow passage between Mexico and Baja California the Strait of Hell because during high tide and low tide, in some conditions, treacherous currents and sand bars tended to obstruct navigation and still do today. “There we remained for the better part of two weeks, hiking, floating in the rubber raft, avoiding stingrays, eating, drinking cold beer and warm beer, and even considering thinking about working.”

Edward Abbey made forays for firewood. Jack Loeffler and Edward Abbey dug a fire pit and lined it with large rocks in which they put a giant stuffed Turkey that Clarke Abbey had wrapped frozen before the trip. In the evening after their first Turkey feast when “the sound of the surf lulled them into a collective reverie,” Edward Abbey and Jack Loeffler set out on a walk east toward the mountains a few miles away:

The moon was bright. The air was warm. There was no wind. The conditions were ideal for a nighttime stroll near the Straight of Hell. We spoke very little for the first mile or so. We finally crossed the main north-south road and followed a trail continuing east. We were able to walk abreast and listen to the night sounds.

“Jack.”

“Ed.”

“Do you consider yourself a mystic?”

“Wow, I have to think about that for a minute. Do you?”

“Consider you a mystic? Yes.”

Consider yourself a mystic.”

“I asked you first.”

We stumbled along the trail for a bit.

“Probably no more than you do,” I replied vaguely. “Is there any vestigial Presbyterianism left in you?”

“Oh maybe a remnant or two left over from my childhood… But I was asking if you were a mystic?”

“It’s ironic, when I was in college, I was one of the two professed atheists on the campus. It took me years to realize that my sense of atheism was mostly the result of semantics. I certainly didn’t and don’t believe in an anthropomorphic god in any biblical sense. It seems that somehow I’ve intuited the presence of some principle or urge that the English language, at least, isn’t prepared to define. I suppose any religious feelings I have stem from the way I feel about the Earth and about consciousness. I’ve suspected for a long time that the planet is the living organism and that life is the way the planet perceives. We’re just a step along the way. Humans, I mean. We’re really not all that important when you think about it.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” said Ed. “But what about a sense of purpose? I wonder if we have any purpose in a higher sense. It seems like you spend years trying to absolve yourself from your childhood biases. If you’re really interested, that is.”

“What about you, Ed? Have you ever had a sense of the mystical?”

“Well, as you know, I’ve always tried to follow the truth no matter where it leads. And intellectually, I’ve tried to come to terms with reality by examining the evidence of my own five good bodily senses that I was born with, using my mind to the best of my ability. But there was a time back in Death Valley where I had what I guess was as close to a mystical experience as I’ve ever had. That was years ago. I was a young man. I’ve never had anything quite like it since. As close as I’ve come is after I’ve been out camping somewhere for at least two weeks. It takes at least that long for me to really get into it and leave all the baggage behind.”

“Can you describe what happened back then?” I asked.

“Well, it’s not something that’s easy to remember intellectually. It was more the way I felt. As I recall, I felt like I wasn’t separated from anything else. I was by myself at the time. It was as if I could almost perceive some fundamental activity taking place all around me. Everything was alive, even the rocks. I was part of it. Not separate from it at all. I wept for joy or something akin to joy that I can’t really describe. It was a long time ago. It’s not something that can be remembered in the normal way, or at least normal for me. The only time I can get close to it is out camping. I don’t get to do that enough. Not nearly enough.”

See a video of Jack Loeffler on the role of artists in environmental activism… Or, read more about Edward Abbey and how he met and wrote Slickrock with Philip Hyde in the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?

Ansel Adams And Paul Strand On Self-Promotion and Exhibitions

July 7th, 2011

Split Boulder Near Lake Ediza, The Minarets, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada, California, 1950 by Philip Hyde. First exhibited in the original "Perceptions" exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1954 with the work of the members of Group f.64, Minor White, his students and a few other Bay Area photographers. This exhibition many consider one of the foundations that defined what became known as the West Coast tradition.

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

In reading the letters between Paul Strand and Ansel Adams from the Center for Creative Photography’s publication, The Archive, it quickly becomes apparent that the times then were quite different. The first exchange of letters between the two photographers in 1933 occurred during the Great Depression, when photography was almost unheard of and even other forms of art were comparatively scarce in relation to the volumes produced today.

To compete and be heard in the market today, a photographer must not only make good photographs, but also promote tastefully. Writing well online also helps to develop a following. One of today’s photographers succeeding in all three is Guy Tal. I have mentioned him before on this blog and I mention him again, because what he writes often relates to what I am learning about the history of photography and because he recommended my blog to his readers. I like Guy Tal’s blog, not because I always agree with him, but because he has a knack for stirring up ideas, thoughts and opinions and getting people to participate. Recently he wrote a blog post called, “Small Confession,” in which he acknowledges the necessity of self-promotion but confesses that he respects photographers who do it reluctantly more than those who revel in it.

Shortly after reading this post, I started reading the letters between Paul Strand and Ansel Adams. These two pioneers, despite what it appears to us now, were also reluctant self-promoters. However, they lived in a time when people were looking for something new artistically and there wasn’t all that much being created of note. Along came people like Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and others. These people offered something that had never been seen before.

Straight photography was not a stuffy, constraining, self-contradicting notion as it is seen by some today. It was a huge Wow, and also freeing and energizing to the medium. Also, these artists did not have to promote themselves as loudly to be heard, because there was much less noise then and fewer voices vying for the public’s attention. People mobbed most of the events of the straight photographers. Perhaps those who look at straight photography as out-dated and old-fashioned, will have justification for that opinion when their events are packed because they have invented something striking and new enough to draw hoards of people.

The first time Ansel Adams wrote to Paul Strand, he reminded him of their meeting and mentioned meeting with Alfred Stieglitz in New York City. Then Ansel Adams told Paul Strand that he had opened a small gallery…

My place is most decidedly not an imitation of Stieglitz’; I wrote him at great length and outlined my plans—I told him I was going to alternate my exhibits between photography and painting or graphic arts, that I was not a missionary or a promoter, and that I did not care if I made anything out of the gallery or not—I only hoped it would pay its own rent. I am trying to bring things to San Francisco that should have come many years ago.

Ansel Adams went on to ask Paul Strand if he would be interested in exhibiting his photographs at Ansel Adams’ gallery. Paul Strand wrote back…

Actually I have little interest in exhibitions—because at the basis they seem to be un-American—just a mean and meaningless affair; mean in that they exploit the artist to entertain the public free of charge—meaningless in that they seldom establish any standards.

I turned down three museums last year in just the above terms—Their impudence and complete ignorance of what they are doing is just disgusting—They think that flattery is a substitute—but they can all go to hell as far as I am concerned—for I refuse to be part of that racket—that is my general feeling about exhibitions—I can never get used to the idea that pictures are free entertainment in the U.S., elsewhere too, that the people who claim to enjoy a thing never support the individual who makes what gives them pleasure.

Paul Strand went on to explain that it was difficult to send his prints out of Mexico, where he was living at the time, for fear they might be damaged, and that he might entertain the idea if he could ever make it to San Francisco in person. Paul Strand told Ansel Adams of a show he had in Mexico under extenuating circumstances, that over 3,000 people came to see in 10 days. Not bad for someone who despised the whole idea. For more about the photography of Paul Strand see the blog posts, “Straight Photography And Abstraction,” and “Photography’s Golden Era 5.”

(This blog post was originally posted March 24, 2010.)